Drawing on lenses of history, political theory and feminism, this chapter points to limits of the economistic frame which treats public and private as homogenous binary categories. This chapter delineates multiple connotations of public and private in colonial and independent India to draw attention to their internal diversity and histories in the context of education. It examines the role(s) of state (public) and non-state (private) actors in education in different historical phases and makes a plea to understand establishment and histories of educational institutions with reference to the formation of state, community identities, gender relations and their interplay in the operation of power and the attendant contestations.